“This is the most difficult show we have ever undertaken, because the goal was to keep people safe,” declares Michelle King about the (literally) jaw-dropping new six-part limited series she co-created with her husband and collaborator Robert King. “The Bite” was conjured up by the Emmy-winning duo as a way to get actors and TV crews back to work safely and innovatively, during a time when most of the TV industry was still shut down because of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. Watch our exclusive video interview with the duo above.
The Kings’ ambitious new satirical drama focuses on two neighbors juggling everyday life, careers, relationships and possibly the end of the world when a deadly new virus starts turning unsuspecting New Yorkers into zombies. The series stars six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald (Dr. Rachel Boutella), Emmy nominee Taylor Schilling (Lily Leithauser), Tony winner Leslie Uggams (Dr. Hester Boutella), Steven Pasquale (Dr. Zach) and Tony nominees Will Swenson (Brian Ritter) and Phillipa Soo (Cyndia Estereo). The Spectrum Original is co-produced by CBS Studios with Liz Glotzer and Brooke Kennedy also serving as executive producers alongside the Kings as creators and showrunners.
Navigating the new normal in a covid-safe socially-distanced and locked-down New York City, Dr. Rachel (McDonald) works from home consulting with her telemedicine clients, while her husband Dr. Zach (Pasquale) works at the CDC in Washington DC. Meanwhile, Lily (Schilling) is upstairs working as a dominatrix, adjusting to consulting her rich clients via webcam. After Rachel discovers one of her patients is sporting a festering bite on his arm, all hell breaks loose when it is discovered that a new virus is infecting already covid-fatigued Americans, turning them into voracious flesh-eating zombies.
“We wanted to do something about the end of the world because we felt like the country was in the midst of the end of the world,” Robert explains. “We also wanted to do something that was available to Broadway actors who we befriended and we knew would be out of work for a very long time. And then, one that was fun and seemed to satirize in an action framework, what was really going on in our country but also around the world,” he says. “To make a show under these constraints, it would be very easy to make a tedious show,” Michelle agrees, adding that “the challenges for us was what do we do to make it not tedious, and for us, the obvious answer is zombies and dominatrixes,” she laughs, which Robert seconds with “I wish that weren’t so true, but it is true!”
The Kings were keen to satirize the noise emanating from the most irrational corners of American society during the pandemic, especially the politicization and denialism that became so pervasive throughout 2020. “The insanity kept developing as we were writing and shooting,” Robert says about their attempt to examine how long it might take for people to take an impending zombie apocalypse seriously. “It felt like a good idea to satirize this disrespect for the seriousness of people dying!”
The show is all the more impressive because the cast and crew pulled off utilizing certain spaces in a relatively novel way. McDonald spends most of her time with real-life husband Swenson playing Dr. Rachel’s secret lover Brian, both of them hunkered down in a two-story apartment in a Hell’s Kitchen brownstone. Schilling plays dominatrix Lily in a separate apartment above them, all under the watchful eye of the show’s crew on its own floor. Similarly, Pasquale (who plays Dr. Rachel’s husband on the show) and his real-life wife Soo both play government agents and scientists at the CDC, which was actually housed in an apartment across the road. “But all the other people that you see in their own locations, they were all in their own homes,” Michelle reveals. “Remote cameras were delivered to them and they acted as their own cinematographers, their own makeup people, they were doing it all.”
“The Bite” is now streaming exclusively on Spectrum’s On Demand platform.
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